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On the 34th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, we wanted to take a look back at how this nationally-observed LGBTQ awareness day came to be.
Some of you may not remember a time before National Coming Out Day, or NCOD, but for those of us who can remember back to the time of neon sweatshirts, legwarmers, and big hair, we know that the very first National Coming Out Day was in 1988. Our team at Harmony Healthcare Orlando is here to remember and celebrate the origin of this important day for the LGBTQ community.
Almost 20 years after the Stonewall Riots, the LGBTQ community was still struggling for civil rights. Many wouldn’t even get support from those closest to them when they revealed their true selves by coming out.
Btw, the term “coming out” came from the old saying “coming out of the closet” which refers to an LGBTQ person acknowledging to themselves and to the world their sexual orientation or gender identity, and not “hiding” in the closet any longer.
Eventually, the term “coming out” began to stand for a time when anyone was ready to reveal their status to the world and potentially be judged or persecuted.
Now, coming out is celebrated, but in the early days of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, there was a growing need for a supportive community to wrap its arms around “new” LGBTQ members when they were brave enough to announce their identity.
NCOD was started by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. Eichberg was a New Mexico psychologist and the founder of the growth workshop, “The Experience.” O’Leary was a LGBTQ political leader and activist from New York who lead the National Gay Rights Advocates in Los Angeles.
Together they started NCOD to maintain positivity and support to celebrate people coming out. The date of October 11 was chosen because it’s the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
“Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”
– Robert Eichberg, in 1993
Themes To Spread Awareness
From 1999 – 2012, the Human Rights Campaign assigned a theme for each NCOD to help spread awareness.
1999: Come Out to Congress
2000: Think it O-o-ver (Who Will Pick the New Supremes?)
2001: An Out Odyssey
2002: Being Out Rocks!
2003: It’s a Family Affair
2004: Come Out. Speak Out. Vote.
2005–2007: Talk About It
2009: Conversations from the Heart
2010–2011: Coming Out for Equality
2012: Come Out. Vote.
2013–2014: Coming Out Still Matters
National Coming Out Day has had a huge impact on the LGBTQ community in the way of support and encouragement. One way this has become evident is with the 2016 American Psychological Association’s policy resolution, “Resolution on Data About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” This resolution points out that the health, mental health, and social status of people in the U.S. often comes from national survey data.
As some national surveys have begun to include demographic questions about sexual orientation, the APA supports giving people the chance to include this information which can give them their first opportunity to be seen in survey data that can impact federal funding and policy decisions.
Today, National Coming Out Day is celebrated in the United States and around the world.
At Harmony Healthcare Orlando, we believe every day is a great day to come out and be proud of who you are. We are here to support you physically and emotionally. Let us know how we can serve you. Happy Coming Out!